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Top-end Audiophile USB Cable with Separate Signal and Power Cables
Jay Victor's design for Pangea Audio's Premier XL USB Cable goes all out with an ultra-quiet approach by using separate cables to carry the signal and the power. The only meeting point of the two cables is at the USB B connector.
Premier XL USB is packed full of other premium features, too. It boasts precision-wound 23-gauge signal conductors using the best copper on the market, Cardas Grade One Copper, plus a 6% pure silver plating. It also features nitrogen-injected foamed PE polyethylene insulation, quad shielding, and a tough woven nylon braided jacket.
It's Not Just Zeros and Ones
We occasionally get questions about USB cables from customers who are getting into digital audio streaming. They wonder why it would be worth investing in an audiophile-grade USB cable when they've been told that all USB cables are created equal as far as digital signals are concerned – that a $5 cable conveys the "zeros and ones" of a digital stream just as well as a more expensive cable.
For the definitive answer, we asked Pangea Audio cable design expert, Jay Victor, "How can one digital USB cable sound better than another?"
"A USB cable is not just carrying a bunch of zeros and ones," explained Jay. "The cable carries an electrical signal from one circuit to another. Lots of things can interfere with this signal, like radio frequency interference (RFI) and electromagnetic interference (EMI). Anything that affect that signal will cause distortion. Some of these distortions are bound to be audible."
This made sense to us. We've heard differences between the various USB cables we sell. Some of our customers swear by USB cables costing $1,000 and more. So USB cable quality definitely matters. However, the cost of a high-quality cable doesn't have to break the bank. Especially when the cable is made by Pangea Audio.
"How Can We Make Our USB Cables Better?"
After three years of making and selling the popular Pangea Audio USB-PC and USB-AG cables, Pangea Audio challenged Jay. How could he make these cables even better?
"I can think of two things right away. We can increase the gauge of the signal conductors and use a more advanced type of insulation," answered Jay. "But give me a little time and I'll think of some more things to improve."
A few weeks later, Jay followed up. "I came up with three designs… "My top-end cable, Pangea Premier XL USB, will take any system into a new dimension," beamed Jay. "It has an innovative design that's sure to be sonically superior to anything on the market under $400. "The main problem with all USB cables is that the power conductor is inside the jacket close to the signal conductors. You can reduce interference from the power signal with a separate shielding and common-mode (twisted pair) shielding of the conductors as I do in all my designs, but I have figured out an even better way.
"Why not remove the power leg completely from the equation by putting it in its own cable? Its only meeting point will be at the USB B connector. This creates a cable with two USB legs, but most audiophiles don't use their USB cable to power their DAC. The power leg is only used to drive miniature portable DACs. I've tried this cable design in my own system and the improvement is somewhere between surprising and shocking. I mean 'shocking' as in shockingly good."
Cardas Grade One Copper
Premier XL USB features precision-wound 23-gauge signal conductors using Cardas Grade One Copper plus a 6% pure silver plating. The insulation consists of premium nitrogen-injected foamed PE polyethylene.
Cardas Grade One Copper is mined in Arizona, then shipped to a New England factory where it is very S-L-O-W-L-Y drawn into conductors in a process that includes reduction annealing between steps to further purify and meld the copper into what George Cardas calls "the most amazing audio conductor I have ever experienced. It is quite simply the best copper on the planet."
"The bottom line is that the best phono cartridges manufactured in the world, the best transformer winders, and the best cable manufactures in the world are converting to this smooth sounding Cardas Grade One Copper," George reports.
"It is simply stunning how using a combination of space age technology (reduction annealing) and ancient drawing process (diamond dies and a slow multi stage annealing) can result in such a refined product."
Hearing is Shockingly Believing
We tested Jay's new Premier XL USB cable with several high-end audio DACs and the improvement was indeed shocking – shockingly good! We heard a bigger improvement with Premier XL USB than we heard with upgrading the DAC's power cord and, in one case, a bigger improvement than adding a separate external power supply. Yikes!
Try the Premier XL USB cable to hear the difference yourself. If you don't hear a huge improvement, please return it for a full refund.
|Write Your Own Review|
|Great Audiophile Cable!|
I purchased this cable to run between my Melco N1 A/2 server and my Bryston BDA-3 DAC. I wanted to see if it would give me an improvement in sound over the all silver Pangea USB-AG. I was at first skeptical, having to pay a higher price to replace solid silver wiring with silver plated copper, even if it was Cardas Copper! Unfortunately, my Melco N1 A/2 - Bryston BDA-3 combination would not respond remotely as a renderer to my UPnP application unless I hooked up both the signal and power leads to the Melco N1 A/2. But even with both leads hooked up, the sound was so much better on certain recordings that I began hearing short comings and what sounded like digital artifacts when I re-inserted my trusted Pangea USB-Ag cable in the circuit. The sound with the Premier XL is more detailed, more of a feeling that the musicians are in my listening room. The music seemed more natural, as if the digital jitter that obscures subtle details and cues was greatly reduced. And I feel more compelled to sit and listen to the music, even recordings that I'd listened to in the past and didn't enjoy. The sound is possibly slightly better when I omit the power lead of the Premier XL, but it requires me to manually operate the Melco with it's front panel buttons. In summary, a great audiophile cable, at a bargain price!
|- Randy T, CA|
|Sounds like real music|
I hear a new richness to the sound. It sounds like real music, not coloration. The XL has become an essential element in my system. I really like it.
|- GZ, DE|
This Pangea Audio Premier XL USB cable made me realize something. That there is a greater potential for USB than I ever realized. Because this cable made such an improvement? That I am now seriously looking into investing in another tweak. Getting one of the better USB isolator devices. For, if this cable alone can make this much of an improvement? It tells me how limited my USB expectations have been.
|- Gene Z, GA|
I hear more layers of detail than I've detected before. Even my 16-bit recordings sound smoother and sweeter. This is my third Pangea product. Each one seems better than the last. How does Pangea do it?
|- Arnold P, NH|
|I was skeptical, but ...|
When I read the cable designer, Jay Victor, saying this cable was as good as anything up to $400, I was naturally quite skeptical. I ordered one just to check it out. I replaced a very good $200 USB cable from another brand usually abbreviated as AQ and settled in for a listen. It was as if someone had flipped a swtich to let the music flow. Everything sounded more vibrant and more alive. Mozart, Marley, Miles, Morrissy all sounded dramatically more real - more present. I was very, very surprised by this cable. I suspect the designer is under rating this cable. Full disclosure: I'm listening to it through Parasound ZDACv2 which is only a $550 DAC but sounds like $1,000.
|- MMP, PA|
|Definitely a Keeper!|
I'd never seen a 'two-wire' version of a USB cable, but when you think about it, it just makes sense from a noise-reduction point of view to separate the power and signal conductor cables in cases where you are looking for the ultimate performance from a DAC. I tried the new Pangea Premier XL, figuring I could always send it back if I didn't like it. But this baby is definitely a keeper! My DAC sounds so much more spacious now, just bigger all around, is the only way to say it. Nice going, Pangea!
|- Rich P, FL|
When I write a product review I think of how I would describe my experience to a friend. Here goes. I ordered this cable on Sunday and it was waiting for me when I got home on Wednesday. The cable is well constructed with gold connectors and a tough sheathing over the conductors cable. This cable is different from all other USB cables I've used. The USB B end has one connector, then the cable divides into two cables with USB A ends. One is marked 'POWER' and the other "SIGNAL". I connected the cable between my Audio Alchemy DDP1 DAC and Auralic music streamer. I connected only the cable marked SIGNAL because I don't use the DAC to power the streamer and I try to follow the 'less is more' philosophy. It was immediately apparent a big change had occurred in the sound. A certain level of back ground-type noise - maybe digital artifact noise? - had vanished. My THIEL speakers sounded more alive. Images were more 3D. There is a warmth in the mid-band that I just love. LIke others have mentioned I can make out individual instruments all the way to the back of an orchestra. Over the past week I noticed other things. I notice more of what's going on in live recordings. I hear papers rustling in the orchestra. People coughing and moving around in their seats. I heard these sounds before but I couldn't make out exactly what they were. Now I can clearly make them out. This cable is Highly Recommended!
|- Alfredo G, CO|
This USB cable transformed my system. I wasn’t expecting an increase in resolution of detail like I hear with this cable. Images have more focus. The treble is pristine. I hear better localization of bass instruments in the orchestra. A bigger difference than I was expecting.
|- Buzz H, MN|
|Suprised is an understatement|
I have spent a while building up my medium / high end headphone system, had really liked the Ifi Gemini cable and thought it was really good. I just switched the Pangea cable out for this and right out of the box.... WOW! Everything is more coherent and the sound separation and detail is definitely a step up! The sound stage is also better. Not sure how they did it but I am impressed and I have not even broken the cable in yet!
|- Kevin K, FL|
|Closer To The Music|
I replaced a two-year old Audioquest cable with this new XL USB cable and it really improved the sound of my Bryston DAC. It brings me closer to the music.
|- Jason Y, LA|
|Can't figure this cable out, but I like it|
I honestly can't figure out what this cable is doing to my system, but I like it. I keep going back and forth between a very expensive Transparent USB cable borrowed from a friend and this Premier XL. The Transparent cable is very good, but with the Premier XL my soundstage seems more locked into focus. It makes me listen longer and longer. According to my salesman the cable should sound even better when its fully broken in.
|- Aaron M, OK|
This is a highly detailed tightly focused cable. Very transparent. Another winner from Pangea. Using with a Berkeley DAC/Aurender N10 combo. Sounds like real music.
|- Adam L, WI|
I wasn't prepared for the upgrade I heard with this cable. I was expecting subtle improvements in image focus and localization, but what I heard was a soundstage a mile deep. The better the recording, the more depth and detail I hear. This was a bigger upgrade than putting a new $300 power cord on my Auralic Vega DAC.
|- Buddy G, TN|